Huntington’s Underground Pipe Systems Highlight Sustainability Efforts

The historic library and gardens recently partnered with SCE to implement energy-efficient upgrades.

At the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, visitors are greeted by immaculate roses in bloom and towering tropical trees in the estate’s dozen botanical gardens. What many visitors don’t know is that one of the most compelling sights at the Huntington lies hidden beneath their feet.

Tucked away underground is a dark, dirt-covered tunnel that leads to the Huntington’s main boiler room. While the concrete room’s structure looks the same as it did when it was built by founder Henry Huntington in 1919, the technology within it has changed drastically. The original coal-powered systems have since been replaced by an extensive network of water pipes that distribute hot and cold air — an energy-efficient practice when heating and cooling a building.

“Henry Huntington worked closely with Southern California Edison and to this day, we’ve continued that partnership with SCE to look for technologies, identify solutions and look for incentives to support energy efficiency,” said Jerry Eaton, Huntington’s facilities manager and engineer who has helped carry out other on-site efficiency projects.

“They don’t necessarily have to be major changes, we simply switched out incandescent lighting for LED lightbulbs, but it has had a huge impact.”

Huntington Library - Energy Efficiency

Huntington engineer and facilities manager Jerry Eaton inside the estate’s main boiler room. 

As part of Huntington’s expansion efforts, the Education and Visitor Center was designed based on SCE’s Savings by Design incentive, a program that encourages businesses to implement energy-efficient solutions in new construction projects. Completed in April, the new complex uses energy-efficient glass, lighting control systems and on-site chilled water generation to enhance sustainability efforts.

Since 2012, these measures have helped the Huntington receive more than $100,000 in energy rebates. They’ve also saved about 400,000 kilowatt-hours as well as 200 kilowatts in electricity, enough energy to power 40 homes for a year.

Gerald Wilson, an SCE Business Customer Division representative, works closely with organizations like the Huntington to identify energy-efficiency incentives and programs that work for them.

“We have to be cognizant of our clients’ unique needs. Certain areas of the Huntington are climate sensitive so we cannot compromise the antiques and paintings,” said Wilson. “It’s not just about helping our customers save money, but when businesses become more efficient, they are being proactive and creating a climate of success.”

While the Huntington honors its rich historical past, it’s also working toward a greener future.

“The Huntington exceeded code requirements, they’ve gone above and beyond what they’ve had to do in terms of energy efficiency,” said Wilson. “They’re trying to be leaders in the field, preserving historical things while marrying that with today’s needs.”

Though the Huntington has been environmentally-conscious since its early days, the estate recently unveiled an institute-wide sustainability initiative and Eaton is excited about all the possibilities.

“We’re looking into an onsite battery storage facility to lessen the need for additional generation, miniature turbines to help generate our own electricity, and using more LED-efficient lighting displays in our galleries and exhibits,” said Eaton.

“In many ways, we’re just beginning.”


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